Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The technique of the story is first-person narrative; everything that Richard says is “unreliable,” in that it reflects his personality, his limitations, needs, hopes, and aspirations. He sees what he cannot help seeing. Such a technique makes the narrator vulnerable and challenges the reader. The narrator is vulnerable because he can be blindsided by the limitations of his thinking and perception. Things happen to him that he cannot predict or protect himself against. The challenge for the reader is to evaluate and interpret events independently of what the narrator is saying in order to gain a better understanding of the action. For example, when Richard reports that Kathryn refers to him as Boswell or suggests he acquaint himself with The Remains of the Day, the reader realizes that Kathryn is making a comment on Richard and his life. Richard is aware of the meaning of the comment, but brushes it off, attributing it to her dislike of him. Only later, in the outcome of the book, does he realize that his life has turned out much like that of Stevens when he is left with nothing when Lowell dies. The reader is not so naïve.

The structure of the story leads to this revelation, or epiphany, a common device in short fiction. In the beginning, Richard denies that he lives to serve. Instead, he sees his current life as an escape from the past and an escape from a relationship with a woman that might end in disaster for him. Of course, that is...

(The entire section is 406 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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